Eating for Two? Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy Diet

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With the emotional roller coaster that pregnancy brings, it can be daunting for pregnant women to take on the additional pressure of eating the “perfect” pregnancy diet. The good news: there is no single perfect diet for pregnancy. The best way for expectant mothers to meet their nutritional needs is to focus on consuming an overall healthy diet, with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats or meat substitutes, and low-fat dairy or dairy substitutes. Consider the following tips when choosing a healthy diet, and remember, what you consume affects your baby’s development, so start making healthy choices early!

Eating for Two? Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy Diet

Sample Meal Plan

Here’s a sample meal plan for moms-to-be, one that meets their needs for all of the food groups and provides about 2,000 calories:

Breakfast: 1 cup of regular oatmeal cooked with milk rather than water; add in ½ cup of frozen unsweetened raspberries, 1 ounce of chopped walnuts (about 14 nuts), and a drizzle of honey for sweetness. Enjoy a decaf latte made with skim or soy milk.

Provides: 2 ounces of whole grains, ½ cup of fresh fruit, 1 ¾ cups low-fat dairy and 2 ounces of protein. With this breakfast, you will get plenty of fiber to help prevent pregnancy constipation and hemorrhoids, as well as protein, calcium and potassium.

Morning snack: ½ cup of pineapple chunks with ½ cup of low-fat cottage cheese.

Provides: ½ cup of fresh fruit and ¼ cup of dairy. Pineapple offers vitamin C, as well as the trace mineral manganese, while cottage cheese gives a great boost of protein.

Lunch: A bowl of lentil soup with about five whole-grain crackers; a whole-wheat pita filled with low-fat cream cheese, tomato and cucumber slices; and ½ cup of frozen yogurt for dessert.

Provides: 1 ¼ cups vegetables, 3 ounces of whole grains, and ½ cup of dairy. Legumes like lentils are great for pregnant women because they deliver a dose of fiber, as well as protein. The frozen yogurt will satisfy a sweet tooth, while also supplying some more calcium.

Afternoon snack: Hummus with any veggies, such as carrot slices.

Provides: 1 ¼ cups vegetables. Hummus is a great alternative to meat, as it’s considered a complete protein. The veggies provide a source of water, helping with hydration, as well as vitamin A.

Dinner: Small filet of baked salmon, ¾ cup of wild rice and 1 cup of roasted broccoli. For dessert, one baked apple drizzled with warmed low-fat vanilla yogurt.

Provides: 1 cup of vegetables, 1 ½ cups whole grains, 4 ounces of protein, 1 cup of fruit and ¼ cup of dairy.  This dinner provides healthy omega-3 fatty acids from the fish and loads of fiber and protein.

Nighttime snack: 1 cup of Greek yogurt mixed with ½ oz. chocolate chips

Provides: 1 cup of dairy and chocolate Greek yogurt is a bit higher in protein than regular yogurt and chocolate used strategically can meet the chocoholic’s needs, while still delivering a dose of nutrition.

Foods to focus on during pre-conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding:

Protein

Most women need 80+ grams of protein every day for healthy pregnancy. Some research shows lower risk of preclampsia and other complications with adequate protein, and some women report less morning sickness when they consume this much protein.

Fats

This is often the biggest hurdle for many women, but consuming adequate fats is absolutely vital to baby’s organ and brain development. Women should focus on healthy sources like meat (including red meat), butter, eggs, olive/oil, coconut/oil, nuts, limited dairy, etc.

Vegetables and Fruits

Vegetables and fruits have a variety of vitamins, minerals and fiber that are helpful during pregnancy. Eating a varied diet, including a lot of green leafy vegetables, can also help raise Vitamin K levels.

Water

A woman’s blood volume actually increases during pregnancy and her body has to supply fluid to replenish the amniotic fluid the baby is in. Drinking enough water (usually around a gallon a day) can help fight off morning sickness, prevent constipation, and make sure mom and baby are properly hydrated.

Foods to avoid during pre-conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding:

Caffeine

There are a lot of conflicting opinions on whether or not caffeine is safe during pregnancy and if so, how much. It certainly isn’t necessary, and is best avoided. If you do consume caffeine, limit to one cup a day and not from soda.

Processed Foods

With up to 200 chemicals found in the umbilical cord blood of some babies, there is certainly good reason to avoid any unnecessary chemicals in foods or environment. Processed foods also offer little nutrition and can lead to constipation and blood sugar instability (which can cause morning sickness).

Grains and Sugars

Grains and sugars are certainly not the most nutrient-dense food choices, and in some people, they can even cause health problems. Pregnant women should focus on the most available and dense sources of nutrition, which means choosing meats, fats and vegetables/fruits over grains, sugars and baked goods.

Supplements for Healthy Pregnancy

Supplement needs can vary by woman, and all supplements should be approved by a doctor or midwife to ensure safety during pregnancy. In general, pregnant women have higher nutrient needs and often supplements are the only way to get adequate nutrients. The following basic supplements are ones that are often beneficial during pregnancy:

Probotics

Best obtained from high-quality supplements, fermented foods and beverages, like water kefir and kombucha. A baby is born with a sterile gut and develops gut bacteria based on the beneficial (or not) gut flora of the mother, so this is an important factor. Adequate probiotics can also help reduce the risk of Group B strep, and have even helped get rid of Group B strep before delivery when probiotic supplements or organic plain yogurt are used vaginally.

Omega-3s, DHA, RHA

Adequate good fats are absolutely essential for baby’s development and it is difficult to get enough from diet. Supplementing high quality sources of these fats can help reduce risk of complications and give baby the necessary nutrients for good development.

Vitamin D

According to one study, women who took 400 IU of vitamin D daily were half as likely to develop gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure or preeclampsia, and were less likely to give birth prematurely, as compared to those who took 4,000 IU. Vitamin D needs vary, but many doctors are now suggesting at least 4,000 IU and up to 10,000 IU a day.

Folate

Well known for its preventative effects against spina bifida and other developmental struggles, folate is another important supplement. The current recommendation is 400 micrograms, though many doctors recommend 2,000 micrograms or more for optimal development, and folate is water soluble and difficult to overdose.

Iron

Anemia can cause serious complications during delivery, and is easy to prevent. If blood tests show that iron levels are low, iron supplements may be necessary, but things like cooking with cast iron pans, eating red meat/grass fed liver, and eating a variety of fats and vegetables can help optimize iron levels. I personally much prefer to get this from food rather than supplements.

Healthy Pregnancy Habits: From Start to Finish

During pregnancy, from the first week to the fortieth (or more), it’s important to take care of yourself in order to take care of your baby. Even though you have to take some precautions and be ever-aware of how what you do (and don’t do) may affect your baby, many women say they’ve never felt healthier than when they carried their children.

DawnLangDawn Lang is the founder  and senior consultant of Healthy Moms Today. Her education background is in sports fitness and nutrition, as well as a health and wellness consultation. She started Healthy Moms Today in hopes of sharing her passion about nutrition, wellness, fitness and creating nourishing recipes from her kitchen to yours. Her mission is to help motivate, encourage, lead, guide, educate and show moms how important it is to be healthy and how easy it is, by inspiring through everyday tips on living a healthy lifestyle. She currently offers food, fitness and nutrition services.  She can be contacted at healthymomstoday.com or www.facebook.com/HealthyMomsToday.

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{Photo credit @iStock.com/ilona75.}

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2 thoughts on “Eating for Two? Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy Diet

  1. Maintaining a healthy balanced diet is important for maintaining optimal health throughout life. For women of childbearing age, good nutrition is important for preparing the body for the demands of pregnancy.

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